Not many music festivals can park right next to the Intrepid. Just a pier to the left of the military ship museum is exactly where the 4Knots Music Festival made its home this year.
For the past four years, the South Street Seaport has been the meeting point for the annual, one-day indie music fest, but this year 4Knots finally found its space, by moving further west and uptown to Pier 84 at Hudson River Park. No longer a free show, this year’s event was ticketed with a portion of the ticket sale proceeds going back to the Hudson River Park. The show’s VIP boat even went up a notch with the Hornblower Infinity Cruise Ship holding another crowd peering overboard by dusk.
Back to one stage only (last year bumped up to three along the tight South Street) attendees had more room to take in a panoramic view of the Hudson River, and New Jersey across the way, from most angles, along with a collection of comfort grub from New York eateries like Harlem Public, Luzzo’s Pizza of the East Village, Dos Torros and Italian gelato from Ti Amo Gelato. Drinks were even more controlled with drink tickets, relieving the serving staff of fumbling with cash during the busy fest. (Beers were only $5 a pop.)
“The location is awesome,” Hilary Hughes, music editor of the Village Voice, the show’s organizers, told Royal Flush, “and you can watch the sunset over the Hudson. It’s convenient for people and we can give back to the park.”
Kicking off 4KNnots’s new seaside residence in the early afternoon, Surfbort warmed up the already sun-dried crowd with some noisy rock; the New York band just released its debut album, R.I.P. DIE OLD, last October. As the sun beat down on the pier, Heaven came down from the clouds with more shoegazing, drifty tunes. Following their haze, Heaters, took their turn. There were moments when the Grand Rapids, MI trio, transformed their dancier grooves and tripped out, moving like a desert road trip or cruise down the Pacific Highway, blasting some sandy, jam-out rock.
Meatbodies got bodies moving as a pit formed. At one point, the guitarist jumped into the photo pit, but it wasn’t enough, so he joined the crowd. London’s Happyness brought some feathery grooves with some wiry guitar pop, getting harder at times with bassist Jonny Allan and guitarist Benji (who switched to keyboard half-way through) sharing vocal and guitar duty.
New Brunswick, NJ’s Screaming Females pounded the stage. A shiny, black bob covering her face for most of the set, singer and guitarist, Melissa Paternoster channeled something like the Misfits at one point between her slap happy guitar crunching. (She was literally slapping her instrument.) Already together 10 years, and five albums out, Screaming Females felt dirty, which is quite alright for rock.
Los Angeles rocker, and Ty Seagall collaborator, Mikal Cronin, who just released his third solo album, took his melodic garage rock to the 4Knots crowd. Chicago’s Twin Peaks were running late but still managed to push their brand of bratty punk rock with frontman Cadien Lake James trading vocals with guitarist Clay Frankel and bassist Jack Dolan throughout their set. “We are good until we get kicked off,” said Frankel at one point when the band was already running overtime but still continued on for another three songs.
Stephen Malkmus and The Jicks still managed to fit in more than a dozen songs from the band’s nearly 15 years (formed following Pavement’s hiatus) together, including a nearly 10-minute guitar solo and all around jam, rounding out a pristine set. Malkmus and co. left the evening just at dusk before things started to feel a bit alien, which would be expected when Super Furry Animals are near.
Back in May, the Welsh rockers who came up in the 1990s alongside Malkmus’ Pavement, played their first show since 2009’s Glastonbury at London’s Brixton Academy this past May. They continued their union with the perfect backdrop for a Stardust-Bowie-transfusion of spacey rock in New York City.
Dancier beats pulsed alongside a light show before the band stepped onstage, dressed in white NASA-like space suits. Moving through a more than a dozen songs, vocalist Gruff Rhys, at one point channeling Daft Punk and the Power Rangers with his red helmet, held up communicative signs like “Aplauso,” “Applause” (met with audience feedback), “Ape Shit.” A Circle Line party boat pumping crazy beats floated near the stage during their set, catching the attention of the band who asked the crowd to wave out to the group. (The partygoers failed to notice the benevolent gesture, and the band continued on.)
Nearly a quarter of the way in, they dipped into 2000 release Mwng (which translates to “Mane” in English), to sing a few songs in Welsh. Nearing the end, Rhys asked (by card) for “Prolonged Applause” and was met by longer clapping.
As the “You know they don’t give a fuck about anybody else” chants continued during “The Man Don’t Give A Fuck,” the band were already covered in their signature, shaggy furry animal costumes and managed to close in time for the day’s 10p.m. curfew.
It’s too soon to tell whether 4Knots will make a return to Hudson River Park in 2016, but it will continue to be a mix of New York bands and outsiders. Whatever the mix, this year’s curated lineup and new location made it possibly one of the best years yet for 4Knots.